Few YA books could match the success story that this particular novel has experienced and even fewer could ever hope to try. First published in Japan in 2003, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya became an almost overnight instant success upon release. Selling over 4,500,000 books as a series, it has remained one of the top bestselling YA titles in recent memory. With nine novels released since its initial publication, two television series, a theatrical movie and a number of Manga adaptations, it has subsequently grown into one of the fastest selling Japanese YA franchises of the decade.
So of course when I heard that the novel was coming out in English, I had already decided to buy it. I was extremely curious. Would the hype match the book? Would I too become a fan? It wasn’t long before I discovered the answer.
There are two main characters in this story. The first is Kyon, the sarcastic, levelheaded young man who wants nothing but to live a normal life. The second is his classmate Haruhi Suzumiya, the bored, forceful girl who wants nothing but to search out the abnormal. They say that opposites attract, so then perhaps it’s because of this that she shows an interest in Kyon, recruiting him one day into her newly founded after-school club whose goal it is to seek out the paranormal. Less than thrilled, he is introduced to three other recently inducted members, who each reveal a secret to Kyon as he slowly gets to know them. They are anything but random students. The book worm claims to be an alien, the klutz says she is a time traveller, while the charming young man purports he is an esper. When he learns the reason why these three have allowed themselves to be brought together by Haruhi, the answer changes his life forever. A new goal is soon added in secret to the club by its four members: to keep Haruhi happy, because even if she doesn’t realize it, she possesses the ability to destroy the entire universe with a single thought.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is what good YA should be: fun, light, comical, dramatic, and surprising. Filled with laughter, mystery, and interesting character development, author Nagaru Tanigawa weaves an entertaining story that won’t soon be forgotten.
The plot paces itself quite well, introducing key events at just the appropriate time, creating a gripping read that doesn’t loosen its hold on the reader easily. Though the novel has its fair share of action and suspense, its main attraction is its unique cast of characters that never fail to capture readers’ attentions.
The ending for any novel is a huge factor for me and this novel in particular had a solid ending that didn’t fail to deliver. If you’re a fan of Disney, you’ll additionally enjoy the multiple references Tanigawa includes in the story to several famous works. While I can’t say based on this first book that the tremendous hype generated by the series is deserved, I can certainly attest to the gravitational pull of Haruhi that has my hand reaching for the sequel. With a flowing English translation that leads from one page to the next, this is not a book to be missed.
If you’re looking for a new spin on some common YA themes or a quirky read that will leave you chuckling on the last page then this is definitely worth your time.
Matthew Reeves is an aspiring novelist living in California. You can usually find him lost in thought on a walk or writing on Twitter as @MattReeves17.